|Posted by Ryan on May 23, 2012 at 1:20 PM|
A wise coach once said the NFL stands for Not For Long. Truer words may not have ever been spoken. Apparently, some folks in Cleveland didn’t get the memo. Never lacking for its share of controversy, the Cleveland Browns organization has somehow found itself in a pickle once again, or so it seems. I suppose that depends on whose perspective you share. It’s no secret, if you’ve been paying attention over the past few seasons, that certain Cleveland media outlets tend to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to the operations of the city’s beloved football franchise. And with good reason.
The Browns, much to the dismay of the Indians and their faithful, move the meter no matter what time of year it is. That isn’t a Cleveland thing as much as it is an NFL thing, but that’s a whole other topic. During the slow months of the NFL off-season however, there is nothing quite like drumming up a little controversy to really get the juices flowing. And by juices, I mean page views and papers sold. So it should surprise no one that there is talk of a Quarterback Controversy… ahem, I mean Quarterback Competition, in Berea this summer. What is a little surprising, however, is the length that some people seem willing to go to paint this sad portrait of Browns QB Colt McCoy.
Before we get into that, I want to take this moment to clear up some misconceptions about the draft that I’m still seeing and hearing regarding the Browns. It’s been about a month since the Browns selected Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Yet, despite repeated attempts by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert to clear the air, I’m still hearing various people around the league suggest that the Browns only took Brandon Weeden because Kendall Wright wasn’t available to take with the 22nd pick, as if the decision to take a quarterback that high in the draft was made on a whim. Of course, this is not true but it’s a convenient form of revisionist history if we’re looking for things to complain about. And apparently, we are.
Both Heckert and Holmgren have clearly stated on a number of occasions since the draft that they did NOT panic and take Weeden only because Kendall Wright wasn’t there. Rather, they took Weeden WHEN THEY DID because Kendall Wright wasn’t there. See, the difference is in the details. But make no mistake; they were hatching a plan to still get Weeden, even if Kendall Wright was available to them at pick 22. On the night of the draft, after the first round had concluded, Tom Heckert told the assembled media, “When you are talking about a quarterback, we just didn’t think that it was worth taking a risk. Maybe something else you say, ‘Well alright if we get him it’s no big deal,’ but with a quarterback we just wanted to make sure we got him. There were some teams that we know were interested behind us, so we just decided to go ahead and pick him.”
A week and a half later, Mike Holmgren reiterated on Mike & Mike in the Morning that they weren’t sure another team sitting between picks 22 and 37 would need a quarterback but they were worried another team would trade up into that area and grab Weeden. And that was a chance they weren’t willing to risk. "What you can't ever factor in is someone hopping in there, so that was a concern. But it was answered for us because Wright went (at 20). Once the receiver was taken, then I said, 'look if we're committed -- and we were thinking about even moving up from 37, let's take him now.' Take him now, it's done, he's the quarterback, and then we don't have to worry about it and that's what happened.''
So they began to devise a plan to trade up for Weeden from 37, provided they got Kendall Wright at pick 22. But when the Titans took Wright out of the equation by drafting him at #20, the Titans had made the Browns decision for them and they decided just to take Weeden at 22 instead. Now, the Browns had their Running Back and their Quarterback. They didn’t need to trade their 2nd round pick (and who knows whatever else) to get back into the 23-36 range for Weeden. They could use #37 to draft their franchise Right Tackle and address the Wide Receiver position at a later time. That’s how it played out and frankly, considering we probably would’ve lost out on Mitchell Schwartz and perhaps some of the defensive depth we acquired later in the draft by selecting Wright and subsequently trading back up for Weeden, I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. The bottom line is the Browns were going to draft Brandon Weeden. It wasn’t a question of IF, but WHEN.
Now, of course, that brings us back to Colt McCoy. On Monday, speaking at a banquet for the Akron Browns Backers, Tom Heckert once again had to answer questions from the media about the quarterback situation. “The best guy is going to play,” Heckert said. “That’s the way it is, but you draft a guy 22nd in the draft, you think he’s going to be that guy. You can write it and talk about it however you want. The best guy’s going to play, but we fully expect Brandon to be that guy”.
Now, I’m not sure why this became headline news all of a sudden, but apparently, the message had not been conveyed the first time around. Once again, speaking on the night of the draft, Heckert was asked by the assembled media whether Weeden was “the guy” at quarterback for the Browns. Heckert said, “Yes, in our opinion he is. We took the kid at 22nd in the draft, we are hoping he is.” There you have it... Twice! In my opinion, you cannot get much more straight-forward than that. But, for some reason, it needs to be repeated over and over because something is wrong with our collective ability to comprehend what it means to draft a quarterback early and expect that he will eventually be the starter.
On Tuesday, McCoy and Weeden were on the field for the first time together in front of the media, during the first of ten OTAs (organized team activities) the team has before a mandatory mini-camp in June. Therefore, it was the media’s first chance to look at the two quarterbacks side by side and judge who should be the starter for themselves. As if anything can be ascertained from a non-contact practice while wearing shorts in May. But it wasn’t the media’s observations from practice as much as it was from the post-session press conference that really stood out. Speaking publicly for the first time since the end of last season, Colt McCoy had to answer all the inevitable questions about the team drafting Brandon Weeden and what it means for him and his future with this organization. In typical Colt McCoy fashion, he said all of the right things. But according to a few Browns reporters, it wasn’t what he said that told the story, but rather how he said it.
While the quotes from Colt would have you believe he is playing the role of the good soldier, just doing what has been asked of him, Tony Grossi, Browns beat reporter for ESPN Cleveland radio station WKNR, painted an entirely different picture in an article he wrote following Tuesday’s practice. He tried to put up a good front, espousing the team-first attitude that makes him such a likeable guy and teammate. But you could see the hurt on his face and hear it in his voice, which cracked slightly on a few occasions. He is a real sympathetic figure now – another victim of the unforgiving machine that chews up quarterbacks in Cleveland. I know pro football is a harsh business and no player is guaranteed anything. But McCoy’s last nine months have been a supreme test of character. He was given no offensive support on the field, had his concussion in the Pittsburgh game severely mishandled, and now is clinging to a disingenuous promise of a “fair” shot at keeping his old job even when the GM is saying “we want Brandon to be our guy.”
Wow. Part of the reason Colt McCoy has endeared himself to Cleveland fans is due to his toughness and resiliency in times of struggle, when the odds were stacked against him. He was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft, much later than anyone imagined. He thrust himself into the starting role, albeit due to injury, halfway through his rookie year, much earlier than anyone imagined. He played well, all things considered, and was given the chance in 2011 to be the incumbent starter, despite not having an off-season to get to know the offense. (Sidebar: People are quick to point out that the Browns shouldn’t get a pass for their poor record due to the lockout since all other 31 NFL teams went through the same thing. So why does Colt McCoy get a pass then, when Andy Dalton also had a lockout but was able to perform much better? Just askin’.) Now, all of a sudden, Colt is a “victim” and a “sympathetic figure” while the organization is being painted as “disingenuous” for saying that he will have a chance to compete with Weeden. I suppose it would be better if the Browns just handed Weeden the job outright then? Would that make Colt any less of a victim?
In a similarly-toned article by Fox Sports Ohio reporter, Pat McManamon, Colt’s post-practice expressions are given the same psycho-analytic treatment as Grossi. McCoy looked and sounded defeated Tuesday, and though he put up the good verbal front - or at least he tried - he seemed rattled that the Browns did not deed him the starting quarterback spot. In a way his reaction is kind of surprising. McCoy didn’t play all that well last season, and he was told when the season ended that there would be competition in 2012. So again, Colt was told at the end of last season there would be competition. But now that the Browns were true to their word, they’re being “disingenuous”. Perhaps, if the Browns wouldn’t have drafted someone as talented at the position as Weeden, it would’ve been a fairer fight for McCoy? Meanwhile, the fans would get Quinn v. Anderson II but hey, at least Colt McCoy wouldn’t get his feelings hurt. Is that really the direction we want to go? Clearly, the Browns Front Office has other ideas in mind.
For Colt and his many followers, it’s time to face reality. The Browns drafted Weeden to be the guy. They’ve said it on multiple occasions. Yet, somehow they’re being chided for being ‘disingenuous’ because they're saying Colt will be allowed to compete for the job, though it appears while watching the two signal-callers in shorts, that it will be anything but a fair competition. Yet I suppose, if they came right out and said there was to be no competition at all, they would be chided for being unfair and ‘just handing a rookie the job’. Only then Colt could be painted as a victim; for never receiving a fair shot, even though he had 21 starts to prove he had what it takes to be a bona fide NFL starting quarterback. Yet somehow, despite obvious actions to the contrary, Colt, in the eyes of the media, has still become the victim and the organization is being cast as the evil-doer; “the unforgiving machine that chews up quarterbacks”. In truth, there is really only one victim in this web of controversy being spun: The Fanbase. And as for them, well, at least one Clevelander doesn’t care who the Browns quarterback is. Unfortunately, that person is Indians’ closer Chris Perez.
Suggestions for further reading:
Grossi’s article - http://espncleveland.com/common/more.php?m=49& post_id=1148
McManamon’s article - http://fanmonster.com/?p=2041